Short Story Review: ‘An Escapade’ by Morley Callaghan

Story Title: An Escapade by Morley Callaghan
Collection/Anthology?: Read from the New Yorker archive, issue dated November 24 1928 (subscription required).
Briefly: Leaving her comfort zone, Mrs. Rose Carey heads to the theatre one snowy Sunday evening to listen to a sermon from the Reverend John Simpson, a minister that the girls at the bridge club have been raving about. While in the theatre however, it’s not long before Mrs. Carey’s attention is diverted.
Afterthoughts: Before passing on my afterthoughts for this story, I just want to explain why I’m seemingly reading a random short story published in the New Yorker in 1928, from a Canadian author who I’ve never spoken about before on this website. Well, I came to Morley Callaghan only yesterday after reading his delicious memoir, That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Some Others. This is not the time or place to go into this memoir (I’ll do that at a later date), but I wil say that throughout this book both Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald champion Mr. Callaghan’s fiction, and heap praise upon him as a writer. Scott Fitzgerald even goes as far as telling Callaghan that he has written some of the finest stories in the English language.

Of course, with Callaghan writing this memoir and having nobody around to confirm it (both Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway had passed by the time Callaghan published That Summer in Paris in 1963), one has to take it with a pinch of salt. But the fact remains, both Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald – and especially Scott Fitzgerald – were instrumental in getting Callaghan published. Additionally, many publications at the time were chasing Callaghan for stories. As a short story connoisseur how could I ignore him? Quite simply, I couldn’t! 🙂

First stop for me then was The New Yorker archive, and from what I can gather Callaghan had nineteen stories published in The New Yorker between 1928 and 1938, with An Escapade being the first of them. The story is simple, direct and uncomplicated, and similar to Hemingway, Callaghan’s prose is reasonably sparse. It’s a good story, with Callaghan exhibiting the mark of a good short story teller, in focusing on a single facet of human nature; in this case that of a woman trying to cope with unwelcome desirous stirrings, while already feeling guilty and vulnerable being well outside her comfort zone.

All in all, as short as An Escapade is it’s a fine story, and it shows that Callaghan has a real talent, not only for exploring the minutiae of the human condition but in his ability to paint beautiful story worlds. I look forward to reading his other New Yorker-published stories, with a view to expanding into his complete collected stories, as published in a four volume set by Exile Editions. Watch this space, I’ve a strong feeling that you’re going to see more of Morley Callaghan on RobAroundBooks in the coming months.

Notable quote: A policeman, leaning against a big plate-glass window, idly watched her cross the road and look up the street to the clock on the fire-hall and down the street at the theatre lights where Reverend John Simpson held Sunday service. She had kept herself late deliberately, intending to enter the theatre quietly and unnoticed, and sit in a back seat, ready to leave as soon as the service was over. She walked with dignity, bothered by her own shyness, and thinking of her husband asking if Father Conley was speaking tonight in the Cathedral. She didn’t want to think of Father Conley, or at least she didn’t want to compare him with Mr. Simpson, who was simply interesting because all her bridge friends were talking about him.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).